by Marg Penn & Nancy Burke
“It’s been many years since I had to interview for a job, and I’ve lost my confidence.”
Joan had been with her organization for almost 15 years. Although she liked much of the actual work and many of her colleagues, recent leadership changes were creating a stressful environment. Coupled with a significant increase in demands (but no increase in salary) Joan felt it was time to move on. As she pondered the next 5-10 years of her working life, she realized she could no longer remain in the organization, and after giving the appropriate notice, left her job.
Unexpectedly, just as she was leaving, Joan learned of a job for which she had many of the qualifications and experience. However, as she anticipated the interview or perhaps series of interviews, she was anxious. “I haven’t interviewed for a job for 15 years and I really don’t know how the world of work has changed”, she commented. And “I don’t know how to effectively sell myself. I don’t want to sound as though I’m bragging and yet I believe I have a lot of experience that would be relevant in this position.”
Joan’s feelings and experience are not unusual for people over 50. Frequently, people have stayed in jobs for the security and because at one time there was a good fit. But as was the case with Joan, changes in the organization, particularly at the leadership level can reduce job satisfaction. Many 50+people lose confidence and question whether a new organization will see value in the skills and experience they bring to the table.
So how does someone effectively sell themselves during an interview? First, it is essential to do a thorough inventory of your skills — both personal (such as written and oral communication) and professional (technical writing). The next step is to review the job description to determine what skills the organization is seeking in the position. Then you can create succinct stories that illustrate how you have demonstrated the skills in real life. Providing a brief outline of the situation, the challenge or task, the actions you took and the result will give the interviewer a clear picture of your skills and strengths. This format can even be used when you are asked “tell me about your strengths”. In response you can say, “let me give you an example”. Preparing well in advance of the interview and writing out your answers can help to increase your confidence and reduce your nervousness. And seeing in writing all of the examples can remind you that you indeed have a lot to offer — a good confidence builder!
And although Joan did not get the position, she was one of two finalist candidates and was seen as a serious contender. While she was certainly disappointed in not being selected, she nevertheless felt that she was able to present herself effectively and when the next interview occurs, will be much more confident in handling the challenge.